I write this as I sip my third cup of coffee of the day. Coffee had nothing to do with my decision to leave the church, but it is a nice perk. I’ve discovered a love for coffee and its magical abilities to turn me into a productive member of society in the morning (I am not addicted, before anyone suggests such a thing. This cup is decaf. I just like the taste.)
As I drink my coffee, I am not being swallowed up by the flames of hell. The devil has not taken up residence in my heart. I have yet to be hit by a bus, and none of the other horrible things I was sure would happen to me once I left the church have happened. Life is good and I am at peace.
Leaving the church is not a decision I came to lightly or impulsively. It has been a long time coming. It comes after many sleepless nights, many tears, much time spent arguing with myself. There were so many things that led up to it. There were issues of doctrine that I tried to ignore, but continued to weigh on me. There were points of church history I tried to ignore or excuse away because I thought I was supposed to. The sketchy church financial issues irked me but I tried to trust in the Brethren- maybe that property in Florida really would help to build G-d’s kingdom! I bit my feminist tongue so much I thought I would have permanent scars, because this was right. This church was where I belonged. And whatever bothered me, whatever gnawed at me, whatever I just couldn’t excuse away, I told myself it didn’t really matter.
Eternal things matter. Since I first joined the church I was committed to staying because I wanted it for my future children. I saw a haven for families within the church and I wanted that for my future kids. I wanted an eternal marriage; I wanted a community that would nurture my family as it grew. I wanted a place to belong now and in years to come. And sometimes, I really did have that within the church.
And then came the letter (https://www.lds.org/church/news/church-leaders-counsel-members-after-supreme-court-same-sex-marriage-decision?lang=eng ) . I had a lot of thoughts about the letter, but the thought that sounded most strongly in my mind was “I cannot raise my children here.” This is not what I want to raise my children to believe is right. This is not what I want my children to believe about G-d. I want to raise children to be accepting of everyone, and to show love to all, including gay friends, family members, and themselves, even if they should happen to be gay (because yes, people are born gay, and I have no control over whether or not I have a gay child, and if I should have a gay child, I would love them and embrace them completely, no differently from how I would love and embrace any straight children I might have).
I wrestled with this as I sat in church, fulfilled my calling, read my scriptures, and did everything a good Mormon girl should. Maybe if I kept doing what I was supposed to, the confirmation that this was right would come. But it didn’t.
Two weeks after The Letter, a statement came out about Boy Scouts (http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-comments-on-boy-scouts-of-america-resolution-on-adult-leader-standards) . I’ve always had issues with the church’s relationship with the Boy Scouts so one would think I would be happy to see they were considering pulling away. And I would have been happy, if it was because the church recognized the implicit sexist messages that stem from lauding of Boy Scouts when girls do not have a comparable activity (activity days are not the same!), but because this rethinking was coming as a result of The Boy Scouts of America deciding to allow gay men to be Scout Leaders, I was definitely not happy. Instead, I was sad, hurt, confused, appalled, and frustrated. Could the Church, which so unabashedly adores the BSA, be ready to sever ties because they were going to (however reluctantly) allow an openly gay male to volunteer to lead a troop? Could a move towards inclusiveness by the BSA really be so offensive to the church? And could I continue to be a member of an organization that would find a move towards inclusiveness so offensive?
I tried to excuse it away, but I had grown so tired of excusing things away. I asked myself, “how many more excuses will I make? How many more things will I have to make peace with, when I know in my soul that they are not right? How many more times will I be ashamed of my church membership?” I could not answer and the thought sickened me.
There is blatant discrimination in the church. We can call it by whatever pretty names we want, but at the end of the day, it is discrimination. And I could not be a part of it any more.
I followed the advice of James 1:5 and prayed to know what to do, and felt true peace in my soul about walking away. So I did. I started attending another church, and living life on terms set by G-d and myself. It was terrifying and anxiety-provoking but also exhilarating and freeing. I came to know G-d in new, amazing, and profound ways. I fell in love with the scriptures. I learned to embrace my authentic self and take newfound comfort in knowing that G-d loves the authentic me.
I have not been hit by a bus. I have not crumbled to a million little pieces. In fact, I’m stronger than ever. I am happier than I knew I could be. I have no regrets about my seven years in the church, but I also have no regrets about walking away. The church isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t for everyone at every stage of their life. I still love and respect the church members I have come to know, and will forever be grateful to the church for the people it led me to, and the blessing the church truly was for me for this period of my life. The church was where I needed to be for a while, but now I am in a new place, and I believe it is where G-d wants me. All is well.